Publishing Date: September 2012
Genre: young adult, fantasy, gothic, horror
Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers are free to experience non-Amish culture before officially joining the church. But before Rumspringa arrives, Katie’s safe world starts to crumble. It begins with a fiery helicopter crash in the cornfields, followed by rumors of massive unrest and the disappearance of huge numbers of people all over the world. Something is out there…and it is making a killing.
Unsure why they haven’t yet been attacked, the Amish Elders make a decree: No one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the boundary of their land, she can’t leave him to die. She refuses to submit to the Elders’ rule and secretly brings the stranger into her community — but what else is she bringing in with him?
Katie is looking forward to her Rumspringa with Elijah in three weeks. It’ll be the one and only time she can live by her own rules before deciding whether to be baptized into the Amish church. She’s already a bit rebellious, questioning the Elders instead of blindly obeying. But after a helicopter crash and a few Amish disappearances, Katie decides to take matters into her own hands. Once an Outside stranger enters her world, her little rebellions pile up. Katie, fully aware of the Darkness infiltrating her small community, implores the Amish to toss their prayers and passive ways and fight back.
This was a terrifying book. I hardly slept. With each of Katie’s rebellions (questioning Elders, then buying comic books, then stealing Coke, breaking the quarantine, allowing a stranger to come in), a new horror strikes the page. One minute she is walking through a field, the next a white horse bursts through the trees carrying a saddle with a bloody boot still hooked in the stirrups. One minute she’s milking the cows, the next she enters a home drenched in blood from a family slaughter. Every sentence is agonizingly suspenseful, making the eagerness to turn the page both foreboding and exciting.
Bickle clearly worked hard to get Amish culture correct in this book. There are moments when Katie explains a tradition or a way of life, but it flows so smoothly with the story I hardly noticed the stopping time for Amish Culture Lessons. I am also extremely happy with the way Bickle portrayed vampires. These vampires are the real thing. These vampires are the ones Victorians feared, the kind that spread like disease, they destroyed rather than seduced, that hypnotized, that cannot enter homes or holy ground, that can only be destroyed with stakes, garlic, and a beheading. These are the very first vampires in folklore, and they are fearsome.
What’s fantastic is that Katie, and the Outsider Alex, rarely describes the vampires’ appearances. They are called “things” and “monsters” and “the Darkness.” Katie can see they were once human, but their movements, behavior, and red eyes show the most base, evil instinct of humanity: literal blood lust and desire to kill. She is awed, shocked, and frozen in fear, her mind incapable of looking at something that appears to be human and seeing such evil.
That is a true a proper gothic vampire and gothic reaction. I applaud Bickle. I applaud her for making me afraid of the dark this week, for making me happy that I’m not living near cornfields now, and for bringing terrifying vampires back into young adult literature.